10 (rough draft)
A hot Saturday afternoon in the July before they stared in The Region, October, Amaretto, Candice and Brigantine landed in the Edgewood Mall, which was not located in Edgewood, the mall hosting one hundred sixty-three stores.
“You know, Brig,” Candice said. “People wouldn’t mistake you for a boy, if you’d dress more like a girl.”
“Why, Abby, should I care what people I don’t even know mistake anything for whatever? I think before we go back to school, I’m going to get my hair cut really short.”
“Eh, well, maybe you’ll want to have a boyfriend –”
“Maybe I want a girlfriend.”
Her eyes went wide. “Do you?”
“No, Abby. I’m comfortable with how I dress.”
“Can we try it?”
“You being my girlfriend or me in a dress?”
Abby punched Brigantine’s upper arm. “You in a dress!”
“It’s a gift to be comfortable with who you are, as you are,” October said. Of the four girls, Brigantine was by far the largest, taller, big boned. October found it a blessing Brigantine didn’t mind not being a petite little girl or a Barbie doll. “Brig is absolutely stunning and in certain lighting, handsome.” She winked to her friend. “I’d be your girlfriend.”
“Ockie!” Amaretto said. “I asked you first!”
Brigantine took Candice’s hand. “Let’s see what Kohl has for the tween this season.”
Candice allowed Brigantine to pull her away. “Coming?” she called to the others.
“You go ahead. Apple looks thirsty. We’re going to get some orange juice.”
“Blended, maybe,” Amaretto added, watching her friends fade into the sparse crowd.
October took her hand. “You okay?”
“Sure.” She shrugged, forcing a smile.
“You sure? I know something happened.”
“Nothing important, not like Brig in a dress. You sure you don’t want to watch?”
October stepped in Amaretto’s path. “I’m sure.” She took Amaretto’s face in her palms, going forehead-to-forehead, watching Amaretto’s dark eyes. “You know I love you, Apple, that you are a perfect human being.”
Amaretto suppressed a sob, nodding repeatedly. “Just as I am. I know. I know.” She took October’s wrists, pulling back tears. “I know.”
October narrowed her eyes, holding Amaretto’s eyes. “You’re sure your okay?”
“I am, Ockie. Same shit, just more of it. Nothing I can’t handle.”
October released Amaretto’s face, stepping back, holding hands. “My life would not be my life without you in it.”
“God, I know that feeling.”
Holding hands, they window-shopped. “That’s cute,” October said, pointing to an A-line dress. “Abby style. I grew up in dresses and skirts, thanks to Mom.”
“I’ve thought about that, if not for Mom, would I dress like I do.”
“I love your look, always have, dripping with subtle sexuality, even back the day we met.”
“Doom and gloom fashion statement. I should start my own line. You have it, too.”
“Don’t mistake compassion for sexuality, Apple.”
“I know how I feel when you take my face.”
The casual observer could mistake October and Amaretto for yin and yang, October in her white spaghetti strap sun dress breaking to her knee, two-inch heeled sandals, no makeup, sandy brown hair floating on her shoulders, Amaretto in her mother’s black corset top with blue ribbons, her tween breasts offering no argument to containment, black hair in a high ponytail, short black flare skirt riding high on the thigh, silver studded belt with large silver buckle, her white legs dropping into three-inch heeled ankle boots.
Candice was, as usual, Barbie Doll flawless in tan shorts and blue polo shirt, canvas tennis shoes, her late summer wheat hair, every strand in place, makeup so subtle it looked like no makeup, soft blue inviting eyes.
Candice left with Brigantine wearing a flannel shirt and blue jeans cuffed four inches, high top red sneakers untied, her brown hair just off her shoulders. October wondered if she’d returned dressed more to Candice’s liking.
“Hey! Morticia!” resounded from behind October and Amaretto.
“A compliment,” Amaretto moaned. “Morticia is kind of hot.”
October examined the reflection in the plate glass. An older boy stood ten feet way, a small group twice that far, watching.
“It’s him,” October whispered.
“Hey! Morticia! I’m talking to you!”
“Remember that kid getting chased out of the school years ago?”
October bit her lip. “The kid leading the charge.”
“I got this,” Apple said, pivoting. “Sorry, that’s not my name. Is there something I can do for you?”
October turned with Amaretto, catching the boy’s eyes, not letting go. He stared, just for a moment, glancing back at his posse.
“We were wondering why you’re such a weirdo.” He forced a laugh.
October took Amaretto by the forearm. “Time to go.”
Amaretto uncharacteristically broke free of October’s grasp and suggestion, stepping forward, shoulders back, fists on her hips, locking eyes with her antagonist. “Fuck you, asshole.”
Anger rose, palatable on his face, replacing amusement. His posse became spectators, laughing at him.
He rushed Amaretto.
October jumped in front of her friend and attempted to get her hands on the assailant’s face. He took October’s shoulders, stepped forward with his momentum, growled, thrusting October free, her back slamming against the plate glass, the glass pulsating.
October grunted, dropping to the cold tile floor, thrashing to gain her feet.
Amaretto hissed, raising her right hand high, posed to rip across his face like a cat, but was much too slow.
Brigantine at full stride took the attacker to the floor, straddling him, fist full of his shirt collar, pummeling his face with her other fist.
“Brig! Brig! Stop! Stop!” October yelled with tears in her eyes.
Brigantine, released from her madness, let go, standing, still straddling the boy. “You okay?”
October managed her feet, holding her chest. “Just the wind knocked out of me.”
Amaretto checked all directions and the growing crowd. “We’d better get out of here.”
Finally getting a deep breath, October said, “Agreed.”
As the four hurried toward the nearest mall exit, Candice said, “I don’t care what Ockie says, Brig. You’re my fricking hero.”
October grimaced. “I really wish you wouldn’t do that, Brig. I had it handled. Once he saw he hurt me, I could have gotten through to him.”
“I wasn’t going to give him another shot at you.
“Dad, I have something to tell you.”
Brigantine’s father tapped the remote, sensing the importance, looking up from the sofa. “What is it?”
Brigantine wasn’t sure, but she wanted to jump out in front of nonsense. “I got in a fight today.”
Her father nodded. “And, you lost this fight?”
She tried not to beam. “Hardly call it a fight.” Brigantine was concerned with cell phones and other surveillance the police might come knocking.
“Tell me what happened.”
“We were in the mall.”
“The usual suspects.”
He nodded, aware of his daughter’s friends.
“This older boy shoved Ockie into a window.”
“I came up as this was happening. I didn’t ask why.”
“Okay. You’re walking up and you see an older boy shove your friend, Ockie, into a window?”
“Ockie. That’s the cute, spry little girl with the brown hair?”
“This older boy?”
“Twice her size. We’ve seen him bully other kids.”
He twisted a smile. “What took you so long?”
“Well, Dad, opportunity.”
“Did you pound him good.”
“Not as good as I’d have liked to.”
“Ockie stopped me.”
“Women,” he sighed, flipping the TV back on. “I’m proud of you, Brigantine.”
October’s teary eyes stayed in Brigantine’s imagination, but she was still proud of herself.
Candice nibbled at a hot dog, Brigantine dropping down beside her near the pool. “Not a bad hamburger,” she said.
“Hey, Nard,” Candice called. “Come here a sec.”
Maynard nodded to Brigantine. “Abby?”
“You remember back a long time ago, the kids went mobbing after –”
“I was going to say Frankenstein.”
“Never say that.”
“Just for reference. I never would.”
“Okay. What about him?”
“Not about him. The kid doing the chasing, the loudest. Do you know who I’m talking about?”
“Steve Walker. I’ve got him trained. All I have to do now, is give him a look.”
“Ockie tried that. Didn’t work. He just shoved her.”
Brigantine smiled. “Only once.”
Maynard placed a foot on Brigantine’s chair, leaning close. “Let me ask you, if you don’t mind.”
“Sure. If you’re going to ask me on a date, I’ll have to check with my four older brothers. They’re very protective.”
Candice laughed. “Like you need protection.”
“I wanted to ask about your name. Brigantine. It’s unique.”
“Dad says they ran out of names, so threw a dart at a map.”
“Are your four bothers named for cities in New Jersey, too?”
“Mark, Paul, Luke and Matthew, in that order.”
“I would not have guessed your father a religious man.”
“Because of the way you dress.”
“In his religion, women don’t count, so it doesn’t much matter what I do.”
“I hope none of your brothers are gay.”
“I wonder about Luke, but I don’t think so.”
“Dart at a map, huh?”
“Mom told me it’s where I was conceived.”
“Ha! Lucky you weren’t named Bed!”
“Or, clothes dryer, if I can believe the story.”
“You’re really cute and smart,” Maynard said, leaning even closer. “Do I really have to get your brothers’ approval to ask you out?”
“Nard!” Candice objected.
Brigantine kept his eyes, inches from hers. She broke off a bit of burger, pushing it in his mouth. “Ask sometime. I may surprise you.”
“You already have.”
Maynard straightened, his foot coming to the grass. “I’d better circulate. You know Mom with her cook outs.” He bowed. “Ladies.”
Brigantine bit her burger. “He’s sweet.”
“He is. I’d go out with him, if he wasn’t my brother. You going to go out with him?”
“We can hang.”